, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 327-344

Sex differences in interest in infants across the lifespan

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Abstract

This study investigated sex differences in interest in infants among children, adolescents, young adults, and older individuals. Interest in infants was assessed with responses to images depicting animal and human infants versus adults, and with verbal responses to questionnaires. Clear sex differences, irrespective of age, emerged in all visual and verbal tests, with females being more interested in infants than males. Male interest in infants remained fairly stable across the four age groups, whereas female interest in infants was highest in childhood and adolescence and declined thereafter, particularly for the responses to visual stimuli. The observed developmental changes in female interest in infants are consistent with the hypothesis that they represent a biological adaptation for parenting.

This study was supported by NIH grants R01-MH57249, R01-MH62577, and K02-MH63097.
Dario Maestripieri, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Human Development and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago. He has broad research interests in behavior, development, and evolution, and conducted research on primate parenting and development at the University of Cambridge and at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center before moving to Chicago. Suzanne Pelka is a graduate student in Human Development at the University of Chicago.